In May–June 2020, a salvage excavation was conducted south of Kibbutz Bet Rimmon (Permit No. A-8756; map ref. 231276–490/742503–81; Fig. 1) prior to construction work. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by N. Feig and H. Mamalya, with the assistance of M. Kahan (surveying), A. Shapiro (GPS), H. Tahan-Rosen (finds drawing and plans), Y. Yaakobi (administration), workers from Bet Rimmon, the surrounding localities, and Kafr Manda.
Kibbutz Bet Rimmon on the Tur‘an Ridge is named after biblical Rimmon in the territory of the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:13). Its memory is probably preserved in the name of the neighboring village of Rumana. Rimmon is also mentioned in the Talmud in connection with the year’s intercalation by seven Sanhedrin sages in the valley of Rimmon (Jerusalem Talmud, Hagigah, 3).
The area was first surveyed in 1981 by R. Frankel, who recorded agricultural installations and field towers (not published). A developmental preparatory survey was conducted in September 2019 and identified the remains of walls, several square structures, winepresses, caves and agricultural terraces; the meager pottery finds gathered during the survey were dated to the Byzantine period (License No. S-979/2019).
Eight excavation squares were opened. At the height of the western spur, a field tower abutted by a stone wall to its east was uncovered (Fig. 2). A stone-clearance pile was identified to the south of the tower. Based on the ceramic finds, the tower dates from the Roman period (mid-first–third centuries CE).
The field tower (4.5 × 7.5 m; Fig. 3) was founded on bedrock. Its walls (W50–W53; thickness c. 1.4–1.5 m) were built of large stones, some roughly dressed, and preserved 3–4 courses high (1.5–1.6 m). The tower’s entrance was a narrow opening in its eastern wall (L114; width 0.5–0.7 m; Fig. 4), near the corner of Walls 50 and 52, leading into a very narrow room (L118; 1.5 × 4.2 m; Fig. 5) with a thoroughly-smoothed bedrock floor. Fragments of bowls, cooking pots, jars and jugs were recovered from the room’s floor and the soil accumulation above it, especially the southwestern corner. Collapsed stone rubble from the tower’s upper courses (L121; Fig. 6) was found outside the building, near its northwestern corner (L120) and to the north of W50.
An enclosure wall (W54; Fig. 7) was uncovered to the tower’s east. It was built of a row of large stones and preserved one course high, delimiting an area of c. 65–70 sq m.
On the smoothed rock surface south of the field tower (Fig. 8), a cluster of ceramic vessels was found, including jars, a jug, cooking pots and a lamp dated to the first century CE—probably the time the tower was built.
Relatively few pottery sherds were recovered from throughout the building, mainly of Kefar Hananiya ware dated to the Early and Middle Roman periods (first–third centuries CE).
Pottery. The tower yielded few sherds of various vessels: bowls, cooking pots, jars, jugs, a juglet, and oil lamps; the most common vessel types are cooking pots and jugs. A few of these vessels date from the Early Roman period, while most date from the Middle Roman period (mid-first–third centuries CE).
A bowl (Fig. 9:1) of the Kefar Hananiya workshop was identified as Type 1A that dates from the late first–late third centuries CE (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:88–91, Pl. 1A:4).
Open, globular cooking pots with horizontal or everted rims (Fig. 9:2–4) that are grooved to facilitate a lid are the earliest type of Kefar Hananiya cooking vessel—Type 3A. Its distribution is wide, and it marks the workshop’s establishment; the cooking pot dates from the mid-first century BCE–mid-second century CE (Adan-Bayewitz 1993:111–119, Pl. 3A:3–5).
Three jar types were identified. One type is a jar with a simple rim and a long ribbed neck that has a groove at the base and a prominent ridge below it (Fig. 9:5, 6). These jars are characterized by an ‘elongated sausage-shaped’ body and a pointed base with shallow ribbing (Fig. 9:7). Jars of this type are ubiquitous at Early Roman sites in northern Israel and date from the end of the first century BCE to the second third of the first century CE. Similar examples were found in first-century CE assemblages at Zippori (Balouka 2013:37, Pl. 4:1–9, Type SJ1). Three jars are attributed to the second and third types (Fig. 9:8–10). Both jar types have ribbed, bag-shaped bodies and rounded bases. Their rims are everted (rounded or triangular in section), and their necks have a prominent ridge at the base. Bag-shaped jars are the most common form in Middle Roman sites in northern Israel, for example, Hammat Tiberias, Tiberias, Kefar Nahum, Horbat Hazon, Meron, Nevartin and others. In neighboring Zippori, dozens of bag-shaped jars with these characteristics were found. The only difference between the two types is in the shoulder: Type SJ2 has a rounded shoulder, whereas Type SJ3 has a carinated shoulder (Balouka 2013:37–38, Pls. 17:1–9, Type SJ2; 18:1–6, Type SJ3). The former emerged in the first century CE, and, as of the beginning of the second century CE, both types appear together, persisting until the end of the third century CE. Since the jar fragments from the current excavation include rim fragments but not shoulder fragments, they are dated to the entire length of both types: first–late third centuries CE. Drawing on NAA (Neutron Activation Analysis), Adan-Bayewitz argued that both types come from neighboring Shihin, where a workshop produced bag-shaped jars from the second century CE onwards (Adan-Bayewitz and Perlman 1990: Fig. 3:3).
Notable among the jugs is a specimen with a long neck and a grooved, everted rim (Fig. 9:11). Similar vessels have been found in Early Roman assemblages at sites in the Jordan Valley, like Jericho (Bar-Nathan 2002:39, Pl. 8:56), where they are dated to the late first century BCE–first century CE. An everted rim that terminates in sharp carination toward the neck (Fig. 9:12) characterizes jugs with a wide neck and a body that veers between spherical and cubical. These jugs date from the Early Roman period (first–early second centuries CE). A similar jug was found at Zippori (Balouka 2013:42, Pl. 6:2, Type JG1). A third jug has a similar everted rim with a concave wall and a wide, cup-like mouth (Fig. 9:13); evidently, it was a large vessel. A vessel with a similarly wide rim was found at Zippori, where it was identified as an amphoriskos and dated to the second–third centuries CE (Balouka 2013:42, Pl. 26:4, Type AMP3). The bases (Fig. 9:14–16) are characteristic of amphoriskoi. The juglet (Fig. 8:17) has a ridged rim and is also dated to the Middle Roman period.
Among the oil lamps, one notes a type with a plain rounded nozzle (Fig. 9:18) that, broadly speaking, appeared in the last third of the first century CE, after the Great Revolt, and continued until the second century CE. Similar examples were recovered from the burial caves at ‘Ibillin (Feig and Hadad 2015:110, Fig. 14, Type 5). Concerning the second oil lamp (Fig. 9:19), it probably belongs to the ‘southern lamps’ group that bears a vegetal decoration and dates from the period between the revolts (70–135 CE).
The tower was built on a spur at the heart of an agricultural region, commanding an expansive view of the Bet Netofa Valley and its localities, including Zippori, a significant city at this time. The tower’s size and sturdy construction suggest it had a second floor. Its thick walls were designed to provide insulation and enable prolonged storage of agricultural produce from its territory. The area east of the tower, enclosed by W54, probably served as a yard for sorting or drying produce before storing it. It is also probable that the tower functioned as a lookout. The ceramic finds are modest, but their occurrence on the structure’s floor, entrance and immediate vicinity indicates that the building was used at least until the mid-third century CE. A similar field tower was recently uncovered on the eastern side of the Tur‘an Ridge with no diagnostic finds (R. Namouz, pers. comm.; Permit No. A-8894).
S. Dar discusses the phenomenon of field towers in agricultural areas in his comprehensive survey and research of northern and western Samaria, encompassing over a hundred towers. His excavations at Khirbet Jemein discovered a concentration of twelve field towers; there were square towers, round towers and a large rectangular tower whose dimensions are similar to those of the tower in Bet Rimmon; these towers are dated to the first–second centuries CE. In his opinion, the towers served a definitive agricultural-economic function: initially, they were used to store viticulture-related produce prevalent in Samaria and later were used as warehouses for all sorts of produce (Dar 1986:40–51).
Dozens of towers were also uncovered at Um-Rihan, south of Tel Ta‘anakh, including a square tower with an enclosing wall just like the one reported above. Dar suggests that this was a pen for livestock built by the landowner (Dar, Tepper and Safrai 1986:63); he also notes the many similarities between field towers and farmhouses that only differ in size but otherwise have the same function as a geographic, economic unit (Dar, Tepper and Safrai 1986:78). The towers at Um-Rihan are dated to the first century BCE–late second/early third centuries CE.
Regarding the connection between the towers in western Samaria and orchard and vine cultivation, Dar concludes that the towers were connected to projects of agricultural development and expansion into the rocky hill regions.
According to historical sources, towers were used for storing produce in the midst of agricultural areas, and their locations were not dictated by security or observational considerations. However, the position of the Bet Rimmon tower is different from most others. Its location at a spur top and its proximity to Ẕippori and the workshop in Shihin indicate its significance for collecting and storing produce and controlling the city’s agricultural hinterland. We, thus, suggest that the tower fulfilled two functions: a warehouse and a lookout tower. Recently, an excavation near Nahal Yiftah’el uncovered a mikveh and a farm of the Early and Middle Roman periods (Permit No. A-8746; O. ‘Abed al-Ghani, pers. comm.), and, in Nazareth, c. 2 km west of Ẕippori, a winery and traces of a road of the Middle and Late Roman periods were discovered (Permit No. A-8702; A. Mokary, pers. comm.). Perhaps these discoveries contribute to a new emerging picture of a network of field towers, farms, and agricultural installations deployed around Zippori during the first–third centuries CE (Fig. 10).
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